Holy Name Church Tour

Welcome to Holy Name Parish Church who will be celebrating its 100th year on September 28th, 2014.  Please join us for our upcoming 100th Anniversary Events.  Please visit our website www.holynametoronto.com.  Thank you for taking a few minutes to step inside and tour our building. Please take as much time as you like, stop and sit if you wish. This house is important to us, so we trust you will treat it with respect.

As you entered the Church, you may have noticed a Latin inscription over the front doors, saying "IN NOMINE JUSU OMNI GENUFLECTATUR". This is taken from one of St. Paul’s letters. The English version of the complete line is “At the name of Jesus every knee will bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” The builders of the Church chose this motto to show their belief in the central position of Jesus in the Universe, not just our world. This belief is reflected in many ways throughout the building.

(1) As we begin, you see a large pool of water that we use for baptisms. Many Catholic churches still just sprinkle water on a person’s head, but our method for adults and older children is to have them wade in the water with the pastor to have a more significant amount of water poured on the head. We believe this is much closer to the way St. John the Baptist originally baptized people, including Jesus. (Infants too young to walk are still baptized with just a small amount of sprinkled water.)

(2) As you move on, you pass the old baptismal font on the right behind a gate. If you look carefully to the left of the font, you see three bottles of oils that are used to anoint the sick, to celebrate baptism, confirmation or other sacraments, and during the celebration of someone becoming a candidate for baptism.

(3) Turning the corner to go up the aisle, please notice a series seven bas-relief pictures. These are the second half of a series of 14 Stations of the Cross, showing various moments in the last day of Jesus’s  life. The first one on this wall is actually the eighth in the series, since the first seven are on the opposite wall. The eighth Station is usually called Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem, who are mourning his sufferings. Most of the things Jesus says in his last few hours are not about himself, but are prophesies (to the women about the future destruction of their community); statements of concern about the welfare of others (the request to his mother to adopt St. John and to the latter to care for her as she aged); a prayer for the forgiveness of his murderers; and a promise to the criminal executed with him who repented that he would see Paradise. This care for others is central to Jesus’s message and is an example our community tries to follow. The fifth Station on this side (12th of the overall 14) shows the death of Jesus on the cross.

(4) As you walk along, you see a number of stained-glass windows showing pictures of religious significance to the donors who paid for them. The first window was paid for through a fundraising campaign by an early generation of students at Holy Name School. You might also note some water damage around some of the windows. We have just begun a 10-year project to repair the damage, upgrade the building and protect it from future deterioration.

(5) As you move up the front aisle you will see towards the front and on your left two pillars that have been decorated with banners. During ordinary time, the banners are green, but there are different colours depending on the season: white for Easter and Christmas, purple for Lent and Advent, and red on the feast days of saints. These banners celebrate different aspects of Jesus. One has bread and wine to symbolize the Eucharist, Christ’s great gift to us. The other has two Greek Symbols – Alpha and Omega – signifying the Beginning and the End of all things.

Moving towards the front of the church, you may notice that the building becomes wider. The wider part is called the transept. It helps give the floorplan the shape of a cross. (There are three main parts in this style of Church, which is based on the traditional European design – the nave, the long narrow part that we have been in so far, the transept, which we are just entering, and the sanctuary, which includes the altar.)

(6) On the east side of the transept, some of the pews are not facing forward, but face in towards the main part of the Church building. This is where the choir sits. Like in many older churches, there is a choir loft at the back, but we like having our choir much closer to the rest of the congregation, leading and encouraging by example instead of being the only ones in the building singing. The organ is a modern electronic instrument that promotes vigorous singing.

The theme of the east side of the transept is a meditation on Mary, the mother of Jesus. In the wall behind where the choir sits, and on either side of the organ pipes, you can see two stained-glass windows. These show two of the important moments in Mary’s life. The picture on the left shows the announcement by the angel that Mary is to become a mother of a child, whom she is to call Jesus. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and…his kingdom will never end.” The window on the right shows Jesus as a baby with Mary and her husband St. Joseph in the stable where he was born.

(7) Looking to your left, you will see a statue of Mary in the traditional style. Mary is venerated in the Catholic Church for many reasons. She was the mother of Jesus and made for him a secure home as he grew up. She is a model for all Christians, men and women both, as one who recognized and embraced her role in bringing about the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth: “Be it done according to your will.” Also, she is a prophet: “The Almighty … has mercy on those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm and has scattered the proud in their conceit, casting down the mighty from their thrones and lifting up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.”

(8) Turning to move along the front aisle, you come to the altar. This is where the celebrant of the mass leads the congregation in the Eucharist, the Church’s chief celebration of Jesus. At the Eucharist we share bread and wine to commemorate his similar sharing with his disciples, to remember his death and to celebrate his resurrection. On the wall behind the altar is a traditional Crucifix of the dying Jesus. If you turn around and look to the far wall at the other end of the Church, you will see another statue of Jesus, one without the cross. This is to remind us that Jesus’s death was not the end, but that we are to take the good news of his resurrection out into the world.

(9 & 10) Turning back to the sanctuary you will see windows that show two views of Jesus. The one on the east side is of the Sacred Heart, symbolic of Jesus’s deep love for us. The smaller one on the west side has a Latin motto which translates as “This is my body” – words he spoke at the last supper when he also commanded the disciples to commemorate his actions.

There is a podium on each side of the altar. The one to your left is used to read the Word of God and for preaching. To your right is where the cantor leads the singing during services. These podiums help keep the altar clear so the major focus can be on the Eucharistic celebration.

(11) Moving westwards along the front aisle you will come to a small altar on which is a box called the Tabernacle. In here are pieces of the Eucharistic bread from previous celebrations that are stored with respect because they mean the real, continuous presence of Jesus in our world. This Eucharistic bread is also brought to shut-ins and others too sick to attend our services.

In front of the small altar is a stand containing a number of small candles. (You passed a similar stand at the beginning of your tour, near the baptismal pool.) Members of the parish and visitors often light a candle then take a few moments to contemplate quietly or say a prayer. The continuing flame from your candle symbolizes that our prayers have an ongoing effect as God continues to heed them even after we have re-entered the busy world outside.

(12 & 13) On the west wall of the transept are windows that share a theme of childhood and the role of the proper religious formation of the young. The window on the right shows the infant Jesus being presented at the Temple in Jerusalem, as part of his family’s religious practice. The other highlights Jesus’s rebuke to his followers who wanted to keep local children away from him as he spoke. Like many, the disciples at first thought only “important” people should be allowed the front of the crowd. But Jesus challenged the normal way of setting priorities when he said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

As you proceed down the long aisle towards the back of the church you will pass the first seven Stations of the Cross and pictures of other religious figures, and you reach the end of the tour.

Thank you for taking the time to visit our Church and we hope your stay has been restful and refreshing. As you no doubt understand, it is very expensive to maintain the building. If you could make a donation to help us, we would appreciate it very much. May the Peace of Christ be with you.